Victory Day in Minsk
Minsk Travel Blog› entry 8 of 9 › view all entries
May 8, 2009
Flight: Kaliningrad (KGD) to Riga (RIX), Air Baltic, F50, economy
Flight: Riga (RIX) to Minsk (MSQ), Air Baltic, F50, economy
Hotel: Hotel Yubileiny, Minsk, $67
I boarded the airBaltic Fokker 50 flight to Riga, the flight was about an hour and otherwise uneventful. By the time the flight arrived in Riga, I was starving and hoped I could find a restaurant. However the next flight to Minsk left from the gate right next to where we arrived.. it was a sterile area but no restaurants, just a vending machine that luckily took a 2E coin for a candybar.
Soon it was time to board the flight to Minsk. This flight was also on a Fokker 50. Boarding was via bus, then boarding the plane via its stairs. I was seated next to an older woman and we started talking. She was coming back from visiting her daughter in Denmark. Also chatted with a Russian Orthodox priest sitting next to me.. his English was excellent. They seemed surprised I would be coming to Belarus as a tourist. I said I was there to see the Victory Day celebrations. Belarus is definitely off the usual tourist trail... although it became independent country when the Soviet Union dissolved, it is still very much in that communist mindset.
The flight arrived on time at the space-age looking Minsk-2 airport. The visa-on-arrival desk was upstairs just before the immigration desks. There were a few people in front of me so it still took about a half hour to process; by the time I came down to the immigration counter I was the last one through. The foreign exchange counters had conveniently closed 5 minutes after our flight had arrived; all I had was Euros and Russian rubles.
It was just getting dark, but from what I could see it was a very clean, green country, rolling hills and fields along the brand new multi-lane expressway. The 8-lane wide praspekt Nezalezhnatsi leads from outside of town right to the center, past the oddly angular-shaped National Library. Along this road were lots of new looking apartments and shops, looks very prosperous. Minsk was heavily damaged during WWII as well, most of the city has been rebuilt since then. Stalin wanted it to be a showplace city. Very little traffic but it was 9:30PM on a Friday evening.
It was about 10PM now but still had energy and decided to head out and explore a bit. Along the river banks were hundreds of young people, just sitting around chatting with friends and drinking lots of booze. It was quite a nice walk along the river, the sidewalks on both sides and people everywhere! The nearby sports complex had an ice rink setup. The air was cool and I liked the atmosphere of the place. I walked all the way along the river back to the main square. Coming back to the hotel I stopped in the grocery store nearby to buy some cookies and a soda.. it was 11PM and filled with people, most of them buying liter bottles of beer. Two young guys snuck past me in the checkout line.. I saw them shoplifting a couple bottles!